Capital Metro bus drivers and mechanics show their skill in national competition

On May 20, the Capital Metro board of directors and President/CEO Linda Watson recognized bus operators and mechanics who represented Capital Metro at the local, state and international roadeo events.
On May 20, the Capital Metro board of directors and President/CEO Linda Watson recognized bus operators and mechanics who represented Capital Metro at the local, state and international roadeo events.

Yesterday, the Capital Metro board recognized the bus operators and mechanics who competed at the local, state and national Bus Roadeo competitions this spring.

A handful of the 1,000+ bus operators and mechanics who drive and service Capital Metro buses represented Capital Metro and the State of Texas at the International Bus Roadeo on May 5, in Indianapolis, Indiana.  McDonald bus operators Arthur “Ace” Murillo and Abdelkader Tenouri placed 5th and 6th, respectively, in the 35-Foot Bus division, and Porfirio “Pistol Pete” Rivera was 21st out of 50 competitors in the 40-Foot Bus division.

McDonald maintenance team Jaime Ayala, John Proske and Gary Robledo placed 10th in the Maintenance division. They were the only team to receive a perfect score in one of the challenge events.

Bus operators Arthur Murillo, Pete Rivera and Abdel Tenouri enjoy the 2013 International Bus Roadeo in Indianapolis.
Bus operators Arthur Murillo, Pete Rivera and Abdel Tenouri enjoy the 2013 International Bus Roadeo in Indianapolis.

Murillo has won the international event four times, and Tenouri also has an international title under his belt.

Congrats to all of these very skilled competitors! And there’s one more competitor to watch this season: MetroAccess Van Operator Ted Ward will compete in the National Community Transit Roadeo on June 2.

Browse photos from the 2013 Texas State Roadeo

Capital Metro Named one of Central Texas’ Healthiest Employers

Capital Metro was recognized at an ABJ event in March for our employee wellness initiatives. From L to R: Wellness Program Manager Tim Kelly, Humana Market Practice Leader Tom Silliman, Capital Metro Risk Manager Mike Nyren, and Capital Metro Chief of Staff Gerardo Castillo.
Capital Metro was recognized at an ABJ event in March for our employee wellness initiatives. From L to R: Wellness Program Manager Tim Kelly, Humana Market Practice Leader Tom Silliman, Capital Metro Risk Manager Mike Nyren, and Capital Metro Chief of Staff Gerardo Castillo.

Capital Metro remains one of Central Texas’ healthiest employers. Our employee wellness initiatives were recognized in March at an event hosted by the Austin Business Journal and sponsored by Central Health, Humana, RunTex and the Mayor’s Health & Fitness Council.

You’ve heard us talk before about our award-winning wellness program. The program began in 2003 and has been successful in curbing the escalating healthcare costs all companies have faced over time. In fact, for every dollar invested in our wellness program, Capital Metro gets a return on investment of about $2.43 in healthcare savings and a reduction in employee absenteeism.

Some of the elements of the program include four 24-hour onsite wellness centers, free personal training, free nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian  onsite weight loss and tobacco-cessation classes, healthy cafeteria, and a bike loan program, just to name a few. Our Wellness team maintains a public facebook page, and it’s a great resource for healthy recipes, exercises and inspiration. Check it out.

In January, Capital Metro completed its move to becoming 100% tobacco free. Also new: Capital Metro now extends its nutrition counseling and workout classes to employees’ household members, too.

If all of this sounds great to you, perhaps you’d like to join the Capital Metro team? Check out our job board for administrative jobs at Capital Metro. If you’re interested in working for one of our service providers as a bus operator or mechanic, Check out the “Jobs with our Contractors” section on the Contact Us webpage.

SXSW Transit Tips

SXSW is in full swing. Capital Metro has added service on several bus routes and MetroRail, too, to help people get around. Here’s what you need to know:

First, bookmark http://www.capmetro.org/sxsw2013.  Maps, detours, schedules, etc.–it’s all there.

If you like printed-out stuff, here’s a handy downtown transit map showing detours through downtown and the special rail schedules.

Detours

Lots of streets are closed. Take a look at the city’s handy interactive map showing street closures. Most  of Capital Metro’s local bus service is detouring through downtown. Most routes will be detoured off of Congress Ave and available at 8 key stops on Guadalupe and Lavaca. Check out this map:
sxsw-superstops

Because many bus routes are detoured away from Congress Ave., about 50 bus stops are closed. Look for the bright pink T-shirts covering the bus stop poles. There are signs at each closed bus stop, too, that will tell you where the nearest open bus stop is for your route.

The eight “super” stops on Lavaca/Guadalupe are marked with a bright green flag that says “Open Stop.”

Getting Schedule Info on the Go

Hey check it out, every bus stop has a unique stop ID. With a cell phone and this ID number, you can get specific next scheduled bus info for that stop.

MetroRail Schedules

MetroRail has expanded hours today and next Saturday, 10 a.m. through midnight. During the week next week, MetroRail daytime frequency will nearly double. Expect a train every 34 minutes, all day.

Full Trains? Full Buses?

As we move into the music portion of SXSW, trains and buses will likely be full. Have a backup plan if you encounter a full bus or train. Signs on each train station will point you to nearby bus service.

Riding with a bike? When trains are full, bikes are limited to 4 per compartment (8 total per train). All Capital Metro buses have a bike rack that holds 2 bikes each.

Late Night Riding

If you’re staying out past midnight, our late night bus service may be just the ticket. Six nights a week, catch a Night Owl to/from 6th and Congress and neighborhoods throughout town, from midnight through 3 a.m. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, you can also ride one of three E-bus routes, which begin service at 8:30 p.m. and run until about 3 a.m. Get late night travel details here.

THERE IS NO LATE NIGHT SERVICE ON SUNDAYS! You’ll need to make other arrangements on Sunday nights, folks.

Here’s a tip for evening riders: use your cell phone to help flag the bus down. A coworker told me about this tip, which works great especially if it’s not well lit at your bus stop, or you are wearing dark colored clothing. Turn your cell phone on and use that to signal the approaching bus.

Additional Resources

City of Austin City Stage 

Austin Chronicle SXSW Travel Tips

Capital Metro Supports APD’s Holiday Traditions

We want to thank the Austin Police Department for giving back to the community, and providing an opportunity for us to give as well. Capital Metro staff participated last week in two holiday community events sponsored by APD that are near and dear to our hearts:  Amigos en Azul “Shop with a Cop” and Operation Blue Santa.

ImageFor the past ten years, Capital Metro has played a supporting role to the Amigos en Azul “Shop with a Cop”, which provides students from two local elementary schools a $50 shopping spree at Target, and a friendly outing with our local police officers.

Capital Metro provided two buses to carry the police officers and kids over to Target for the shopping spree. Capital Metro Security Manager and retired APD Sergeant John Jones was at the helm of one of the buses, and a police officer drove the other.

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Capital Metro volunteers helped Operation Blue Santa make the holidays brighter for 25 families.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, 18 employee volunteers and family members from Capital Metro, McDonald Transit and MV Transportation helped make deliveries to 25 families for Operation Blue Santa. The deliveries were made in a MetroAccess van, complete with Santa! Capital Metro employees have been involved with Operation Blue Santa for many years as a very rewarding way to give back to the community and to get their children involved, too.  McDonald Transit Senior Trainer Toni Jackson organizes our volunteers each year.

Check out all the photos from these two events on our facebook page. Season’s greetings from Capital Metro!

Help “Stuff the Bus” for Capital Area Food Bank

Head on over to 6th and Bowie, on the back side of Whole Foods Market on Lamar, and help Capital Metro, Capital Area Food Bank and Whole Foods Market collect 20,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry.

Project leads Juan Wah and Celso Baez will do almost anything to entice you to bring some food donations down to 6th and Bowie. They say, "Your food donations and the Capital Area Food Bank go together like Peas and Carrots!"
Project leads Juan Wah and Celso Baez will do almost anything to entice you to bring some food donations down to 6th and Bowie. They say, “Your food donations and the Capital Area Food Bank go together like Peas and Carrots!”

Bring your non-perishable food items today through Sunday (Dec. 14-16), to the special “Stuff the Bus” bus parked at 6th and Bowie. Take pictures with the volunteer crew, check out the Christmas lights be-dazzling the bus, hear some live music, and get a super happy feeling in your heart for helping those in need.

The goal of the three-day event is to fill a full-size Capital Metro bus with 20,000 pounds of non-perishable food items, benefitting the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. According to the food bank, 20,000 pounds of food equates to approximately 16,000 meals to families in need throughout the community.

Donations are welcome anytime between 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Volunteers from all three organizations will be on hand to accept food items and load them onto the bus.

The food bank encourages donations of healthy, non-perishable food items, such as canned meats and tuna, canned vegetables, pasta, beans, healthy cereal and peanut butter. During the drive, participants may also purchase pre-packaged food donations at Whole Foods Market in $5, $10 and $20 increments.

Ride the bus over to Whole Foods via the following routes:

#1L/1M North Lamar/South Congress
#3 Burnet/Manchaca
#4 Montopolis
#21/22 Exposition/Chicon
#101 N. Lamar/S. Congress Ltd.

City/Capital Metro Partnership to Upgrade Accessibility at Bus Stops Throughout the City

Over the next five years, many Capital Metro bus stops will be receiving accessibility makeovers, thanks to an ongoing partnership with the City of Austin Public Works Department. Through this partnership, more than 170 bus stops were upgraded last year.

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This bus stop at Burnet Rd at Rutland is just one example of hundreds of the improved usability and mobility that is coming to bus stops around the city.

Today, City Council approved an amendment to the existing interlocal agreement between the two entities that extends the partnership for the next five years.  

Pending budget availability each year, Capital Metro will reimburse the City up to $10 million over the next five years to help upgrade Capital Metro bus stops to meet the highest standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Public Works will manage the individual projects, which will be timed to coincide with other sidewalk or street work already planned whenever possible.  

“This collaboration is a great example of local tax dollars being spent wisely, with huge benefits for the community,” said City Councilman and Capital Metro Chairman Mike Martinez. “Incorporating bus stop improvements into already planned city projects just makes sense. It reduces staff time and paperwork, ultimately saving both the city and Capital Metro, time and money, while improving the walkability and accessibility of the city.”

Although all of our bus stops met the requirements of the ADA at the time they were constructed, we wanted to improve accessibility and meet the newest standards. Capital Metro launched a program in 2008 to upgrade stops with concrete landing pads, curb cuts, and in some cases, sidewalks. In 2008, two-thirds of bus stops needed some level of accessibility improvement. Today, about a third of the bus stops still need upgrades and will be addressed over the next five years. 

Capital Metro: “Seriously Transparent”

Capital Metro CEO Mike Martinez is at the helm of the Transparency Bus.
Capital Metro Board Chairman Mike Martinez is at the helm of the Transparency Bus.

Capital Metro has been awarded—for the third year in a row—the Texas Comptroller’s highest rating for its financial transparency efforts. Yesterday, we unveiled a unique “transparency bus” to remind the community—(you)—they can track every dollar Capital Metro spends on our website.

Senator Kirk Watson noted in a statement, “Capital Metro has done a ton of hard work over the past three years to transform itself into a model of best practices…Capital Metro’s work shows a continued commitment to being accountable on current and future investments in our comprehensive transportation system.”

CEO Linda Watson issued the following open letter to the community yesterday.

December 4, 2012
Greetings.

Capital Metro is seriously transparent. That was the message I conveyed today, along with Austin City Councilman and Capital Metro Chairman Mike Martinez, and Legislative Director for Senator Kirk Watson, Sandy Guzman, at a news conference announcing that Capital Metro has been awarded the highest financial transparency rating—for the third year in a row—from the Texas Comptroller.

We were the first transit system in the state to receive a gold transparency rating.

Capital Metro posts a wealth of financial information Continue reading “Capital Metro: “Seriously Transparent””

Local poets to be featured on entire Capital Metro fleet

Prepare to be inspired! By the end of October, your bus will feature poetry onboard, thanks to a partnership with Austin Poetry Society.

The winning poets pose with their poems/bus placards in front of what has been deemed “the poetry bus.”

On Sept. 29, we kicked off the next phase of a partnership with the Austin Poetry Society that is bringing poems by local poets onboard our entire fleet of buses, including UT Shuttle buses.

APS announced the winners of a poetry contest that was advertised on 150 Capital Metro buses earlier this summer. About 100 people came to hear the winning poets read their poems and install the first of the bus placards onboard a Capital Metro bus parked at the event.

Bus number 2371 was parked at the event, and we’ve deemed it “the Poetry Bus” as it will feature the poems of ALL the winning poets.

Twelve different poems are being produced into bus placards, all designed by local artist and poet Christine Gilbert. We hope the poems will delight you and add some joy to your daily ride on Capital Metro.

The contest garnered more than 300 entries, many of which were penned by bus riders. Per the partnership agreement, APS produced the interior bus signs, and Capital Metro donated the space inside the buses.

APS is planning to produce a second batch of signs featuring another 12 poems next spring.

Here is one of the placards you may see on your bus beginning this month, enjoy!

 

 

MetroRapid Construction Begins, “Screen ATX” Debuts

Today, the official groundbreaking for MetroRapid, Capital Metro debuted a unique and artistic short video to get people talking about MetroRapid. Take a look.


We debuted the video at the MetroRapid groundbreaking this morning at Chinatown Center. Chinatown is one of so many awesome destinations that will be served by the first MetroRapid route, Rapid 801 North Lamar/South Congress.

Check out more photos from the event today on our Facebook page.

Over the next 15 months, 40 MetroRapid stations will be built between Tech Ridge Park & Ride and Southpark Meadows. Construction for the second planned MetroRapid route, Rapid 803, Burnet/South Lamar, will begin later in 2013 (another 32 stations).

MetroRapid combines the reliability and amenities of a train with the flexibility and cost efficiency of a bus. Everything about MetroRapid is designed to move people quickly and connect them to the best parts of Austin along the two planned routes.

Some of the features of MetroRapid that will make for a reliable, on-time, and comfortable ride:

  • real-time arrival information at stations
  • signal priority technology that allows vehicles to “talk” to traffic lights to keep the service on time
  • limited stops and multiple-door boarding means faster trips
  • MetroRapid vehicles will be able to bypass traffic through downtown thanks to transit priority lanes
  • lots of headroom, comfortable seats, etc.
  • beautiful stations, with benches and unique shelters

MetroRapid is going to connect the best of the ATX.

What did you think of the video?

Capital Metro to upgrade rail warning system at six crossings

Capital Metro Rail Operations staff recently completed an assessment of the handful of private crossings along the 32-mile MetroRail Red Line.

Today at the Capital Metro Operations & Planning Committee meeting, VP of Rail Operations Melvin Clark outlined the assessment and our recommendations. The good news is that all of the private crossings meet Capital Metro’s standards.

The better news is that the assessment gives us an opportunity to review and update our standards for private crossings. Melvin reported to the board committee our plans to standardize the private crossings and install flashing light warning signals, as well as pursue closure of several private crossings as part of its ongoing commitment to safety.

We will install flashing warning lights at six private crossings—one per year over the next six years. It costs an estimated $200,000 per crossing to install the lights. Although the Federal Railroad Administration does not require warning lights as private crossings, we’ve programmed these upgrades to enhance safety along the commuter line.

We are also standardizing the crossing surface of each private crossing along the Red Line to asphalt or concrete panels. Three private crossings in the assessment had a gravel (they call it ballast in the railroad industry) crossing surface, which requires more ongoing maintenance depending on the volume of motor vehicle traffic. One of the three private crossings has already been resurfaced with concrete panels, and the remaining two crossings will be resurfaced over the next two months.

Ultimately, it is still up to the driving public to obey public safety and traffic laws. Capital Metro has an ongoing rail safety education program to raise awareness of rail safety issues. This fall, Capital Metro will launch a rail safety campaign to reach rural communities along Capital Metro’s freight railroad. Learn more about rail safety.